On Tuesday, over 35 students, faculty and community members met to discuss the recent restructuring of Oregon’s energy industry from Senate Bill 1149, which took effect March 1.
Oregon’s electricity restructuring law gives customers more choices regarding their energy sources and rate options. The law was created with the support of the Citizens’ Utility Board, Industrial Customers of Northwest Utilities, Associated Oregon Industries and the Oregon Public Utility Commission.
Customers have the option of maintaining their basic service, or switching to a number of options including time of use, fixed renewable power and habitat renewable power. Portland General Electric offers information needed to compare the new energy options, including pricing formulas and environmental impacts on their Web site www.portlandgeneral.com.
The public forum was sponsored by the Hatfield School of Business and co-organized by Oregon’s Future, a non-partisan, nonprofit public affairs magazine that focuses on clarifying complex, controversial subjects are important to Oregonians and policy makers.
“We present all sides of an issue and give background so readers can make up their own mind,” said Jay Hutchins, executive director and editor of Oregon’s Future.
In the Spring 2002 issue of Oregon’s Future Jeff Hammarlund, guest senior forum editor and adjunct professor for the Mark Hatfield School of Government, tackled the complex issue of Oregon’s energy policies.
Hammarlund and 20 volunteer writers, who are experts in the field of energy and energy policy, including Congressman Peter DeFazio, addressed one question: Was the restructuring presented in Senate Bill 1149 a savior or a potential disaster?
Eight speakers were present at the forum to further open the discourse about post-March 1. Since restructuring less than two months ago, little more than 2 percent of energy customers have changed from their basic service package. This has caused some to question whether consumers really want more energy options.
However, Pamela Lesh, vice president for public policy and regulatory affairs for Portland General Electric, said, “I’m appalled that after 2 months anyone can begin to call it a success or a failure.”
Stephen Grover, economist for ECONorthwest stressed the importance of “understanding the nuts and bolts of the California Public Utilities Commission’s restructuring scheme and why it failed.”
Grover argued California’s difficulties centered around, “the spectacular failure of California’s restructured energy market,” not solely on environmental factors, as purported by power suppliers.
Melinda Davison, an attorney with Davison Van Cleve, said the plan is too complicated. He also said the changeover fee customers are charged for switching from Basic Service deters customers from experimenting with the market.
However, Davison agreed with Lesh’s optimism saying, “Measure 1149 is the best restructuring plan in the country, but it is going to take some time.”
Local home owner Jeff Sackett took advantage of the new options for energy usage by switching to the time of use plan in which customers are given a lower rate, 2.843 cents per kilowatt, for power used during the off-peak hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. On-peak hours, when demand for electricity is high, time of use rates are 7.751 cents p.kw.
“It has only been a minor adjustment to shift my energy use to the off-peak times,” Sackett said. “It’s difficult to tell how much I will save when I get my energy bill this month, but even if I only save $10, it’s worth it to me because it helps me to be more conscious of the energy I use and it lightens the load for PGE.”
Upon hearing he was part of only 2 percent of energy users who opted to change their service, Sackett joked, “Well, I’ve always been a trend setter.”
The articles written for Oregon’s Future about energy restructuring are currently available online at www.oregonsfuture.org, including previous issues covering Measure 7, tax policy and land use planning. Jay Hutchins, executive director for Oregon’s Future said, “We’ve had great responses from people who have read our magazine. They really respect what we’re doing.”